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Cain’s Economic Plan Dominates GOP Debate

Posted By Frontpagemag.com On October 12, 2011 @ 12:44 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 33 Comments

Businessman Herman Cain catapulted to the top tier in the race for the GOP presidential nomination after his surprise Florida straw poll victory, and he is now feeling the heat. His economic plan, dubbed “9-9-9,” received the most attention in last night’s debate, with former Senator Rick Santorum and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann leading the charge against it.

There were no major stumbles by any of the candidates in this last debate, and there were few fireworks as they sat around a circular table to discuss the economy. Herman Cain received the most attention and aptly handled criticism of his 9-9-9 plan, which calls for a 9% national sales tax, 9% corporate income tax and 9% personal income tax. Cain had serious momentum going into the race, with most polls showing him a close second to Mitt Romney or even slightly ahead. One poll shows him with an eight-point lead in Iowa, and another has him ahead of Romney by one point in South Carolina.

When a moderator from Bloomberg said that the news service doubted whether 9-9-9 would raise revenue, he humorously responded, “The problem with that analysis is that it’s wrong.” He also joked about the complexity of Mitt Romney’s 59-point economic plan. His plan was challenged by Santorum and Bachmann, with the former saying it won’t pass Congress and the latter having a stand-out moment when she said, “Turn 9-9-9 upside-down. The devil is in the details.” Both cautioned against giving the federal government the power to implement a national sales tax, and that concern will resonate with voters.

Mitt Romney performed well and spoke smoothly about the economy and his record. Leading up to the debate, he had kind words for Herman Cain, probably because his ascent helps split the field that is trying to become Romney’s alternative. One poll shows Romney with a three-point lead in Iowa because of this division. He was also endorsed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, inarguably one of the most coveted endorsements a candidate could win. Overall, Romney probably did not gain or lose from the event. There were no big moments, but he did earn an applause when he said, “If you’re not willing to stand up to China, you’ll get run over by China.”

There is no reason to believe that Rick Perry stopped his slide in the polls. He spoke without passion and failed to have a stand-out moment. He is trying to own the issue of energy independence, calling it a “new Declaration of Independence,” and urged domestic production. His comment about the need for a balanced budget amendment was well-received, but this does not differentiate him from the field. He struck Romney hard on his health care plan in Massachusetts, but Romney came prepared to highlight differences between his plan and President Obama’s. It is unlikely that Perry won any new supporters during this debate, and the ascent of other candidates will continue to take a toll on his numbers. He remains in the second-tier.

Newt Gingrich was climbing in the polls and was tied for third place nationally until Herman Cain’s candidacy propelled forward. His “21st Century Contract with America” has failed to garner attention. As usual, he won some of the biggest applauses of the night, such as when he called for the firing of Ben Bernanke and said defense spending should not be cut just because the government is “too stupid” to come up with a solution. For the third time in a debate, he criticized the media, including the moderators. This time, he said the media is failing to demand transparency in the Federal Reserve.

He gave his first very gentle jab of his campaign when he asked Romney about why he didn’t want to reduce the capital gains tax for those making over $200,000. This gave an opportunity for Romney to talk about his affection for those making a lower income and to appeal to the middle-class. This exchange worked in Romney’s favor. Gingrich consistently offers detailed solutions and performs well in the debates. He must hope that Cain’s star falls and that he can take his supporters.

Rick Santorum is slowly creeping up in Iowa, with one poll showing him at five percent, only a few points behind Paul, Perry, Gingrich and Bachmann. He is the one that most harshly criticized Herman Cain’s economic plan, flat-out calling it “bad” in an interview before the debate. He asked audience members to raise their hands if they liked the idea of a national sales tax and if they believe the 9-9-9 tax rates would forever remain that low. The audience appreciated it when he linked poverty to the breakdown of the family structure.

Michele Bachmann is making an effort to sound more substantive, and spoke impressively about tax policy, debt and the mortgage crisis. However, she seems to lack the fire she once had and she’s fallen to the bottom of the pack in the polls. Like Gingrich and Santorum, she needs Cain’s numbers to quickly fall in order to have a chance.

Jon Huntsman is making a stand in New Hampshire. One poll showed him in third place at 10 percent, while another had him essentially tied with Gingrich for fourth. He was likeable and spoke well, but is still having trouble differentiating himself from the rest of the field. He delivered a foreign policy speech just before the debate where he emphasized his support for a speedier withdrawal from Afghanistan, but this debate only focused on economic policy. Huntsman’s biggest moment was when he joked that 9-9-9 sounded like the price of a pizza, referencing Domino’s 5-5-5 deal.

Congressman Ron Paul’s moment came when Cain said that Alan Greenspan was his favorite chairman of the Federal Reserve and he responded by calling him a “disaster.”  Other than that, Ron Paul didn’t have any memorable moments. His support appears to have hit a ceiling, though his backers are extremely enthusiastic.

The coming days will tell us if Santorum and Bachmann were able to make Cain’s supporters question 9-9-9. If they failed, then Cain will have gone a long way in solidifying the anti-Romney vote around his candidacy. Cain has taken Rick Perry’s old spot in the race, but the fight is not over. The next debate is October 18.


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